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Pre-pandemic notice periods, electrical safety failings, property near commuter train stations, and HMRC triggers market slump fears

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Media headlines continue to feature major UK property news stories.

The housing market seems to be setting record after record in terms of prices and the unrelenting demand from hopeful buyers – many of whom are now considering a return to the office and want a shorter walk to start and end the daily commute.

Yet questions continue to be asked whether about the potential fragility of the housing market recovery now that the Stamp Duty holiday has ended and with the possibility of further rounds of Covid infection this winter.

Notice periods in England revert to pre-COVID lengths

Clear signs of a return to normality in relations between landlords and tenants came with the introduction into law on the 1st of October to re-establish pre-Covid periods of notice required for repossession of let property.

On the 27th of September, Propertymark advised that the period of notice now required for a Section 21 (“no-fault”) repossession has reverted to the pre-pandemic interval of two months while Section 8 notices – principally those based on arrears of rent – revert to just two weeks.

Council threatens landlords with huge fines over electrical safety

More local authorities are showing their teeth in the threat of big financial penalties for landlords who fail to comply with the latest requirements for electrical safety certificates in private rented accommodation.

In a story on the 4th of October, Landlord Today revealed that Redditch in the West Midlands is the latest council to warn that landlords face fines of up to £30,000 if they fail to secure an electrical safety certificate before letting their property to a tenant. If it is requested, the certificate must also be provided to the local authority within seven days of the request.

Electrical safety certificates were introduced last year but have been required by landlords of all private rented property since April. A certificate is valid for five years and must be renewed if the property continues to be let when the certificate expires.

Surge in commuter train station searches as workers start office return

A press release by online listings website Rightmove revealed that the gradual return to office working has seen an upsurge of interest in homes for sale near commuter railway stations.

Searches for homes near the station in Chelmsford, Essex, for instance, climbed by 107% in the three months from June to August. When the new London Underground stations at Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station opened on the 20th of September, searches for homes near them shot up by 200% compared with the previous week.

The upsurge in interest in homes nearer to commuter stations is driven by those people who are returning to office working but want a quicker start to the day and return home afterwards. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the keenest interest has been shown in homes within an hour’s travelling distance of the major cities of London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Sheffield.

UK house prices hit record high

The relentless rise in the value of homes in the UK continues unabated with yet another record reached as the average price hit £235,000, reported online listings website Zoopla on the 28th of September.

As sales are proceeding at their fastest rate in the last five years (with each transaction agreed in less than an average of 30 days), said the report, the price of a home in this country increased by an average of £44 a day during the past six months. In the period from July 2020 until January 2021, the daily rate of growth was just £30.

The region that has experienced the fastest rate of growth in house prices is Wales, where the average value of a home has increased by 10% year on year.

HMRC figures trigger fear of housing market slump

For all that exuberance in the housing market, the end of the Stamp Duty holiday granted by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) sounds a note of caution, according to a story in Estate Agent Today on the 4th of October.

While the tax break was in place, many otherwise reluctant buyers were attracted into the housing market and, now that it has ended, some commentators are predicting a forthcoming deflation in prices, less activity, and fewer transactions.

Although some may bemoan the end of the Stamp Duty holiday, there is no denying that the tax break has cost the Treasury in tax receipts. The £11,600 million it raised in revenue during the period 2019 to 2020 dropped by 25% to just £8,670 in 2020 to 2021.